If anyone embodies the truth that disability is not inability, that person would be Angelique Ingabire, an ambitious young woman born with a hearing and speaking disability, but currently passionate about her job as a tailor.
Ingabire is up by 6am and reports to work at 8am, where she first checks whether there are unaccomplished tasks for clients before handling new ones. She works with nine other young women, making wearable, fashionable clothes mostly from Ikitenge.
Their work station at Kabeza, closer to the main road, is conspicuous for its silence and use of sign language.
This is extended at home in Gasabo District in Ndera sector, where her siblings communicate with her in sign language.
Her parents are catching up albeit slowly. Born in 1996 in Kimironko, Gasabo district, Ingabire is the first of six children. “She was born so weak,” said her father, Tadeo Uwitonze.
Months into infancy, her parents noticed her challenges in speech. “She could only pronounce ‘Mama;’ the other words were not clear,” Uwitonze recalled.
They sought medical help but nothing could be done, they were told. “We had already embraced her as a gift to us since way back, so this didn’t hold back our love for her,” he added.
At the age of three, Ingabire enroll her to Institut F.Smaldone pour sourdsmuets in Nyamirambo in Kigali, a school for children with hearing and speaking disabilities.
“It was painful for us to see her go for she was so young but we wanted her to get exposed to a learning environmenfrom a tender age,” Uwitonze explained.
At the end of primary school in 2013 she joined a secondary school that was inclusive.
We had dreamt of a place where our daughter could fully adapt to the environment,” added Mr Uwitonze.
But this was a new experience for her. “It was a great challenge,” she explained. “At times, I felt like giving up, but I needed to be the change for many who thought that I couldn’t,” she added.
After secondary school, she took up a one-year tailoring course, completing it in 2018.
With a smile, she recalls one of her first clients in 2019 was pleased by her work, so much so that they still do business to this day.
She still comes across some discrimination in the form of use of words to show they are not normal.
While her father, Mr Uwitonze, is glad the government has called out discrimination against persons with disability, but wants more: subsidies on medical accessories and equipment for persons with disabilities, since these aren’t included in the medical insurance, yet they are very expensive.
“I hope to one day own my own space, where I can create more fashionable wear on a larger scale,” Ingabire concluded.